- Traditional animal farming causes a lot of unnecessary animal suffering.
- Since lab-grown meat is just tissue grown in a lab, it can't suffer.
- The prevailing skepticism toward "artificial" foods would need to be addressed.
On the 1st of September, I published an article together with a couple of other researchers in the Journal of Bioethical Inquiry advocating for "clean meat." What is clean meat? Other popular terms include "lab-grown meat," "synthetic meat," and "ethical meat." Because more and more people object to the industrial farming of animals, vegetarianism and veganism have started to radically change a lot of Western societies. Restaurants are offering more and more meat-free alternatives. However, over the last decade, great strides have been made towards a type of meat without these ethical complications—involving no suffering—because the meat is grown in labs. Yet, a lot of people seem to harbor irrational disgust responses to this solution to animal suffering. In our article, we aimed to criticize the most common objections to clean meat.
Our paper is titled: "Flesh Without Blood: The Public Health Benefits of Lab‐Grown Meat." Here is a little summary from our abstract:
Synthetic meat made from animal cells will transform how we eat. It will reduce suffering by eliminating the need to raise and slaughter animals. But it will also have big public health benefits if it becomes widely consumed. In this paper, we discuss how “clean meat” can reduce the risks associated with intensive animal farming, including antibiotic resistance, environmental pollution, and zoonotic viral diseases like influenza and coronavirus. Since the most common objection to clean meat is that some people find it “disgusting” or “unnatural,” we explore the psychology of disgust to find possible counter-measures. We argue that the public health benefits of clean meat give us strong moral reasons to promote its development and consumption in a way that the public is likely to support. We end by depicting the change from farmed animals to clean meat as a collective action problem and suggest that social norms rather than coercive laws should be employed to solve the problem.
In the ongoing debate about ethical eating, it's pretty clear that traditional animal farming causes a lot of unnecessary animal suffering. While there are more humane ways to farm animals, they often aren't affordable if we want to keep producing the amount of meat we're used to having.
That's where lab-grown meat comes in as a game-changer. Since it's just tissue grown in a lab, it can't suffer, which wipes out the moral dilemma usually linked with meat consumption. This new method could drastically cut down, if not completely get rid of, the cruelty often seen in food production.
Many individuals find the concept of eating lab-grown meat quite unsettling, posing a significant hurdle to its wide acceptance. This reaction isn't just a matter of personal preference; our sense of disgust heavily shapes what we are willing to consume. This instinct, rooted deep in our evolutionary history, has historically guided us away from potentially harmful foods, particularly helping us navigate the riskier terrain of meat consumption which has a higher likelihood of harboring dangerous pathogens compared to plant-based foods.
It seems that the key to encouraging the acceptance of clean meat might lie in making it not only safer but also more appetizing than conventional meat. People are naturally drawn to what tastes good, often prioritizing flavor over ethical considerations. In this light, enhancing the safety and taste profile of clean meat becomes a crucial strategy in making it a desirable choice for the average consumer.
Moreover, there's a growing awareness and concern about the diseases that can originate from traditional meat production practices. This shifting tide of perception presents an opportunity to make clean meat more appealing to the public. Future marketing efforts might do well to focus on the unsavory aspects of industrial animal farming, highlighting it as a less appetizing option when compared to the clean and futuristic methods employed in synthetic meat laboratories popping up in countries like Holland and Israel.
However, to truly usher in a new era of clean meat consumption, we must also tackle the prevailing skepticism toward "artificial" foods. A widespread belief persists that natural is synonymous with good, a notion that needs to be challenged, particularly when considering the cruelty and health risks associated with large-scale animal farming. By drawing attention to these issues, we may find a pathway to reducing the stigma against clean meat, gradually steering public opinion towards a more favorable view of this innovative food source.
We stand at a significant crossroads, one where our choices can redefine our relationship with food, health, and the environment. By fostering a deeper understanding and acceptance of clean meat, we can pave the way for a future that embodies both compassion and sustainability.
Anomaly, J., Browning, H., Fleischman, D. et al. Flesh Without Blood: The Public Health Benefits of Lab‐Grown Meat. Bioethical Inquiry (2023). https://doi.org/10.1007/s11673-023-10254-7